Manufacturing of our parchments

MANUFACTURING OF PARCHMENT: The parchment maker begins by buying raw skins
The supply comes from slaughterhouses or collectors of raw skins who will have already classified skins by categories, size or weight, and quality. The bought raw skins are in dried state (1), or salted (2).

Salage des peaux brutes 1.                                  Séchage des peaux brutes 2.

These skins are going to undergo step by step the operations described below, which are common to the various branches of the tannery jobs, and which will take from one month to one and a half months.

First stage. It consists in eliminating the superfluous parts, such as legs, head, tail, surpluses of fat, when this operation is not already done at the supplier's. It is done either manually, or mechanically. The purpose is to prepare the skin for “soaking”.

The second stage. The soaking insures the rehydration of the skin and the elimination of stains such as straw, feces, urine and diverse soluble substances, as for example the salt used for preservation. This operation takes from two to five days, depending on whether the skin is dried or salted. 40 to 150 skins can be treated at the same time in a static pond (3), then washed in one “laveuse” or one “coudreuse” (4 and 5), in which skins are shaken. The operation can be activated by heat, or by the use of surfactants products.

Peaux dans un bassin statique  Lavage des peaux dans une laveuse  Lavage des peaux dans une coudreuse  3. 4. 5.

The third stage,
The flesh is removed with a “fleshing machine” (6), what will later favor the chemical reactions.

The fourth stage, (7), A solution, constituted of calcium dioxide, sulphide and water, is applied to the flesh side. It is going to destabilize first keratins of the hair, and it could destabilize proteins of the skin if this operation is not stopped at the end of five hours maximum.

Echarneuse 6.  Quatrième étape, l’enchaucenage 7.

The fifth stage (8). The skin is put on a wooden stand, and the hair is removed with a blunt curved tool. This operation can be also done mechanically.

The sixth stage (9). It consists in destabilizing the collagen fibers which constitute the dermis, by soaking skins for ten days in a bath of water and calcium dioxide. This stage also cleans the skin.

Cinquième étape, l’épilage 8.  Premier pelin ou pelannage 9.

Seventh stage. The flesh is again removed with a more finely adjusted “fleshing machine”.

Eighth stage. It is again done on a wooden support (10) with a blunt knife, which cleans the external part of the skin.

Ninth stage. It ends the destabilization of collagens and eliminates fats.

Tenth stage. Rinsing in the clear water (11). The raw skin is now transformed into what we call a skin “in gut” (12).

Ebourrage, qui se pratique sur un chevalet 10. Rinçage dans un foulon 11. Peaux en tripe 12.

Eleventh stage. An optional stage, depending on the final result we want to obtain.
Skins are put soaking into a bath of water and hydrogen peroxide, which clears them up.

Twelfth stage. A wringing of skins allows them to bring them back to original size.

Thirteenth stage. It can be performed in three different manners:

- with pliers : skins are stretched with pliers on a metallic frame (13 and 14).

Cadrage des peaux à la pince Cadrage des peaux à la pince 13. 14.

- with "picots": skins are stretched and nailed on a wooden frame (15 and 16).

Cadrage des peaux au picot Cadrage des peaux au picot 15. 16.

- with threade : skins are stretched on a harrow by means of threads (17).
In this case, a new fleshing is practised by hand with a sharp knife, in the shape of a half-moon (18), and followed by wringing on both sides of the skin and by a tightening all round.

Cadrage des peaux à la ficelle Cadrage des peaux à la ficelle 17. 18.

Fourteenth stage. A drying, the duration of which depends on the temperature and on the humidity of the ambient air (19 and 20).

Séchage des peaux Séchage des peaux 19. 20.

Fifteenth stage. A sanding is made with sandpaper (21) in a machine or by hand.

Sixteenth stage. Skins are moistened and put in tension.

The finished parchment skins are stored in a dry place, awaiting use (22).

Ponçage des peaux 21. Stockage des peaux dans un endroit sec 22.

It is important to note that the process of parchment is not irreversible because we can again wet it and tan it to make into leather.